I had thought about calling this post “Crazy Chicken Lady” because I’m about to divulge the lengths I will go to for one of my favorite hens, little Sweet Pea. This is the same Sweet Pea that I wrote about back in September 2012 after she suffered from a reproductive disorder (prolapsed vent). Sweet Pea recovered from that condition, and she’s been living happily at the farm until last week when we brought her back to the chicken infirmary in our kitchen in Portland. One of the indicators of a chicken’s health is the condition of their comb and wattles. When the comb and wattles are full and bright red it indicates a healthy, laying chicken. When they are a pale bubble gum pink, it indicates either a sick chicken or that the chicken is undergoing a normal annual molt during during which they do not lay eggs. Sweet Pea’s comb turned a very pale pink a few weeks ago, which was a noticeable difference from the rest of the flock, most of whom have full bright red combs and have started laying eggs again after their winter break. I tried not too worry too much at first, and I hoped that it was just a sign that perhaps she was about to molt. After a couple weeks of her not looking well, isolating herself from the flock, sleeping a lot, and not eating much, I decided to take her to the vet. There are a few vets who see chickens in the Portland and St. Helens area; however, I have not been too impressed with their knowledge of chickens when I have visited them in the past. I decided to take Sweet Pea to the avian vet in Lake Oswego who is well-respected in the Portland chicken community and who is herself a chicken owner of over 15 years.
Here’s where the crazy chicken lady part of the story comes in. The vet suspected Sweet Pea had injured her liver, possibly by bumping or flying into something, and that she may have an infection, so she prescribed antibiotics. Okay, fine I thought, I have administered various treatments to the chickens before but they’ve always been in liquid form and easily added to their drinking water. This prescription, however, was for pills! For a chicken! Not to worry the vet said, I’ll show you how it’s done, as she opened Sweet Pea’s beak with one hand and slid the pill down her throat with the other hand in about 2 seconds. The prescription was one tablet twice a day for five days. The first couple of days went fine, in part due to the fact that I recently discovered Sweet Pea’s fondness for grapes, and I was able to stick half a pill in half a grape and get her to swallow it down after a few tries. Then about halfway through the treatment she caught on to the grape trick and wasn’t having any more of that. So the search began for other foods I could camouflage her pills in. I tried blueberries, scrambled eggs, and cooked squash with little luck. She loves cheddar cheese, so I tried wrapping grated cheese around the pills, to no avail. All that was left to do was to try it the way the vet showed me. Sean held Sweet Pea, and by some miracle and with minimal struggle, victory was mine! I actually managed to stick a pill down her throat. It’s a good thing too because we’re going to have to do it a couple more times to get her through her prescription. I wish I could say that the antibiotics appeared to be helping her, but she doesn’t seem to be improving.
We will bring her back to the farm this weekend and see if being reunited with the flock perks her up a bit. I fear the worst, however, and in the back of my mind I can’t help but think that her past prolapse is an indication that she may suffer from additional reproductive issues. Her pale comb and lack of appetite are a reminder of our poor Ruby that we lost last year to a reproductive disorder. I sure hope that’s not what’s going on with Sweet Pea. If she’s not looking better over the weekend, I have another appointment at the vet scheduled for early next week. Only a fellow chicken lover could understand my devotion to this chicken. What can I say other than in this increasingly bizarre and sad world we live in, my chickens bring me happiness and peace, and it’s hard to put a price on that.